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hugecoltsfan93's avatar

Why do electricians install power plugs upside down?

Asked by hugecoltsfan93 (7points) February 23rd, 2009
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

21 Answers

loser's avatar

I’ve often wondered this myself. Could it be some sort of electrians union plot?

essieness's avatar

To confuse you. They probably do it and then have a good laugh about it later. I can’t blame them really, lol.

Bagardbilla's avatar

As someone in the. Building trade, I always tell my electricians to do it that way so that small children do not mistake it for a “smiley face” and think it’s something to screw around with…

kevbo's avatar

In my house, the upside-down plug is controlled by a wall switch and the rest are right-side up.

exitnirvana's avatar

I’ve always wondered why this is…I hadn’t noticed it until I moved to WV and thought that maybe it was just a regional thing. But I guess its pretty prevalent anywhere there is new construction…

good to know!

dynamicduo's avatar

My apartment has a mix of proper aligned plugs (ground on the bottom) and non-proper ones (ground on the top). There doesn’t seem to be a method to the madness, I liked kevbo’s idea but it’s not the solution for my apartment’s wiring choices (we do have light switches that control a few plugs, but they’re ground up). My building is relatively new (built in the past 10 years) so an older version of the building code wouldn’t really make much sense. It seems that the only “correct” plugs are in the bathroom, and that the building designer purposely chose to flip all the other plugs. Why he did this is anyone’s guess!

MrItty's avatar

I’m more curious why the heck they have to be alligned vertically, with the annoying number of appliances that have a giant ac adaptor for a plug. They effectively reduce the available outlets by 50%. Why can’t they be placed horizontally?

RandomMrdan's avatar

I use to work for an electrical contractor in school, and learned the trade for 2 years.

The reason they do this, is normally for a work environment. If something were to come crashing down ontop of the electrical outlet while something was plugged into it, it would only jam across the ground connection. Where as if something jammed into both the Positive and the Neutral connections, it would create a short and could cause a fire.

I think it depends on the setting, or who did the job, but some people see it as a safety reason to put it upside down like that. Or perhaps like Kevbo said, so you can know which ones are controlled by a switch.

elijah's avatar

@MrItty I wonder that too! I can have my hairdryer and my flat iron plugged in at the same time. Sucks. I think it’s so that you can’t overload the fuse.

bodyhead's avatar

Usually it’s just three screws to fix this. One screw holds the plate on and two screws actually hold the plug guts in the junction box. You can flip it around regular (make sure no exposed wires are touching anything) and screw everything back in. Waa laa, there you have a right side up plug after 2 minutes of work.

Make sure you turn the power off first or you’ll get a shock.

psyla's avatar

Why do humans seek a standard method of organizing all things? Let’s organize the electric outlets.

Skippy's avatar

Is it that the ground is up?? You’ve just gotten used to seeing them ground down. It is this way “ground up” for the uncertain times something may fall into it ie: paperclip falls into it and shorts out.
PLUS The new National Electrical Code states this is the way it must now be done!

bodyhead's avatar

How many times have you accidently dropped a paperclip into your outlets? How many times have you dropped anything into your outlets?

Even if you did do that, it would just flip the breaker or blow the fuse. Then you’d remove the paperclip and reset the breaker. No harm done.

(Although I really can’t imagine how you could drop a paperclip in your outlet.)

RandomMrdan's avatar

@bodyhead even though the break blows, sometimes shit happens, and it can catch fire. Electrical fires do actually happen. And paperclips may not fall in it, but something might, and in the event that it does, having the ground up will prevent anything crazy or out of normal from happening.

You might be walking down the hall with a butter knife in your hand, trip and fall over someone’s vacuum cable and slice right into that ground connection causing you no harm, but if it were the other way around, you could be in for one heck of a shock…however unlikely it may seem, if it did, you’d wish the ground was up. Freak accidents can and do occur. I’m sure it’s why it’s the new code like Skippy mentioned.

bodyhead's avatar

Electrical fires usually happen because of bad or old wiring. Someone could trip fall and stick a butterknife into the power part of thier socket whether it’s rightside up or upside down. It would make no difference. Ok so it makes 1/16th of an inch difference but you’re just as likely to shock yourself either way.

RandomMrdan, you’ve probably lived a pretty long lif… Have you ever heard of this happening to anyone? I haven’t.

Oh you mean if you actually cut into the wire on accident. So you’re banking on cutting into the ground but not through the ground because if you did, you would complete the current.

In your secenario, if their hand was slightly angled (as it probably would be as they were falling), if they cut into the cord, they would cut into the ground and the power completing the circuit.


RandomMrdan's avatar

I’m not the person to discuss the chances or how many times something has occurred (thought I haven’t seen this happen to anyone). I’m saying that if you cut into a ground connection in a downward motion, it will not shock you. And if it’s a code, then there must be a more logical reason if that doesn’t work for you. Someone, somewhere has deemed it important enough to put the ground up for a reason, and my example, though kind of dumb and unlikely is a scenario in which the ground up would help someone.

jasongarrett's avatar

From :

Having the ground hole on the top was removed from the code few edtions ago. It use to be a requirement only in medical facilites, the reason was if a metal object, such as a scalpel, were to fall onto a plug inserted into the wall, and if the plug had come out some exposing the metal blades, the metal object would fall against the ground prong first, and most likely deflect the object from the live exposed blades, and prevent any chance of sparks. Sparks and anaesthesia do not mix well, or at least they use to explode easily.

And since most hospitals were wired by large union contractors, the practice spilled over to other installations over the generations. Methods performed by union electricians often became widely used in the industry.

JoJo2323's avatar

I’ve worked as a trim carpenter for almost 10 years and have worked with hundreds of electricians. Every one of them has told me that the upside-down outlet is purely for the homeowner to recognize which outlet is controlled by a light switch. Usually when there is no light installed in the ceiling, you’ll find an upside down outlet in the room so you can plug a lamp into it and control it with the light switch. I’ve never heard the idea of installing 1 outlet upside down in case something falls on it. If that were the case, why wouldn’t they install every outlet that way. Seems like you’d be poop out of luck if you were standing any where in the room except for above the upside down outlet.

weekendworrior's avatar

I have heard people talk about why they install upside down but not why you should install them right side up
if you install outlets ground down, the last thing unplugged is the ground, the ground is the most important of the three, if there is power on an appliance and not on an GFI the ground is what trips the breaker if the appliance shorts and a lot of older ones have metal cases

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